History-like hindsight-is supposed to be 20:20, but the deliberate partisan, political divide regarding the invasion of Iraq makes that hard.
It’s not a new phenomenon. Long ago it was said that the true story of a war can’t be told until the last of its veterans has passed away, and only a few months ago did the last World War One veteran go to his great reward. For decades after the Civil War (and some would argue even today) the debate raged on, and the healing of Southern Reconstruction didn’t really start culturally until the unity of the Spanish-American War turned foes into brothers-in-arms.
Conspiracy theories-often fueled by politics-still rage over the 911 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, whether or not Roosevelt deliberately allowed the Pearl Harbor attack to happen, whether or not the U.S. Navy knew the U.S.S. Maine had a boiler explosion and wasn’t sunk by a mine. People still think that the Lusitania was set on a suicide mission to get the United States into World War One. These myths will always remain, and it’s good that they do because they spark investigation and a search for understanding of these world changing events. The relationship between the 911 attacks and the invasion of Iraq is interesting in that both have a long list of conspiracy theories attacked to each, and yet the abstract, more indirect relationship between the two events is dismissed out of hand. To that end, even if one believes the relationship between Iraq War and 911 attacks is a conspiracy theory, it’s worthwhile to examine if for no other reason than harvesting a better understanding.
Opponents of President Bush and of the invasion of Iraq often claim, “Iraq did not attack the United States on Sept 11, 2001,” but Germany, Italy, and the rest of the Axis didn’t attack Pearl Harbor either and yet the U.S. went to war with them as well as the Japanese. Why? Because those Axis powers had an alliance, an agreement to help the Japanese. It was a paper only agreement (history shows us that there were no battles with uber-racist NAZI S.S. troops fighting alongside Japanese troops), but it was an agreement none-the-less. Additionally, the Axis nations declared war on the United States after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Similarly, we know from Clinton Administration claims, from captured documents, from pre-war and post-war intelligence that Saddam’s intelligence agencies had relationships with various groups in the Al Queda terrorist network of groups. We know from the 1998 Clinton Administration indictment of Osama Bin Laden that the two had reached an agreement to get WMD into the hands of the Al Queda network of terrorist groups.
the indictment states that Al Qaeda reached an agreement
with Iraq not to work against the regime of Saddam Hussein and that
they would work cooperatively with Iraq, particularly in weapons
We also know from 1990-2003 Saddam’s government considered itself at war with the United States and from 1992-today Osama Bin Laden’s Al Queda network of terrorist groups has been at war with the United States.
Why did Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda go to war with the United States in 1992? According to the 911 Commission’s final report, the reason that the Al Queda network went to war with the United States, and ultimately the reason for the September 11, 2001 attacks was 4 different things (pg48-49)
He [Osama Bin Laden] inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest sites.
He spoke of the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and
he protested U.S. support of Israel.
Why were American forces in Saudi Arabia from 1992-2001? They were there for one reason: to enforce no-fly-zones over Iraq which were there to protect Iraqis from Saddam. If the United States had removed Saddam in 1991, then the U.S. forces wouldn’t have been needed in Saudi Arabia, and Osama Bin Laden’s first casus belli wouldn’t exist.
Why was Osama concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people? He was concerned-like many around the globe-because the U.S. led sanctions were starving tens of millions of people as a failed means of influencing Saddam. Again, had the United States removed Saddam in 1991, Osama Bin Laden’s second casus belli against the United States-his second reason for the 911 attacks-wouldn’t have existed.
Why was Osama Bin Laden so concerned about the United States support for Israel in the 1992-2001 period when Al Queda went to war with the United States? What was unique about that period in America’s support for Israel? In much of the Arab World (and in anti-Semitic circles around the world as well), America’s continued pressure on Saddam Hussein’s regime was viewed as an American shield for Israel; as the United States protecting Israel from Saddam and other aggressive Arab regimes.
The historical lesson and inescapable fact is that if the United States had chosen to remove Saddam from power in 1991, OR if the United States had simply walked away from Iraq in 1991 and washed their hands of Saddam’s regime without trying to compel compliance with United Nations resolutions, then Saddam’s regime would have remained in power, BUT the reasons for Osama Bin Laden and the Al Queda terrorist networks’ war on the United States simply would not exist; i.e. the reasons for the Sept 11, 2001 attacks wouldn’t have existed.
Would Osama Bin Laden and his network still have found other reasons to wage war on the United States? One cannot tell for certain, but it does seem that their nature and their destiny has been to fight superpowers, and with the United States as the sole superpower in the 1990’s, it seems more than likely other excuses for casus belli would have been claimed.
Would Saddam Hussein have still been a threat to the United States if he had been left in power in 1991, and if the United States didn’t pursue compliance with U.N. Resolutions? Absolutely. In 1992 U.N. inspectors found that Saddam’s regime had actually built a nuclear bomb, but lacked enriched uranium for it. From 1992-1995 U.N. inspectors found vast amounts of WMD. Saddam had invaded or attacked every single one of his neighbors during his reign, he’d used WMD in the past, had ordered them used against U.S. troops in the 1991 Gulf War (Iraq Survey Group Report, transcript of recording, vol II). Few reasonable leaders would argue that Saddam was not a threat, and no one would argue that a Saddam Hussein who still had ballistic missiles, WMD, and more in 1992 was not a regional or even global threat. Determined that he was a threat, Saddam either had to be removed in 1991 by the United States, in the 1991-2003 period by internal forces (multiple attempts at which all failed with increasing futlity), or by the United States in 2003.
The abstract, and more indirect relationship between the 911 attacks and the invasion of Iraq is simple: the war with Al Queda and their attacks on the United States (including the 911 attacks) were blowback, consequences, fragmentary effects of the 1991 invasion of Kuwait and Iraq.
The DIRECT relationship between the 911 attacks and Saddam’s regime is far more debated. To be clear, the hijackers were no more Iraqi than the pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor were German and Italian. However, the question of direct Iraqi ties to the 911 attacks go back to that very day when-as the attacks were happening-Iraq shot down an unarmed Predator drone over Iraq that was searching for WMD etc. On that day, after getting sparse, scattered, and chaotic information about the attacks-while they were happening, and while getting 2-3x as many false reports and rumors of attacks, members of the Bush Administration were not at all culpable or irresponsible for asking if Saddam’s regime was behind the attacks.
In fact, at the time it had become a common cultural expectation. During the 1990’s the Clinton Administration repeatedly claimed that Saddam’s regime and the Al Queda network worked together. Mass media reports of the time carried this theme fully and without question. It was even showing up in movies where characters would claim anything-even meteor showers on New York City were the result of Saddam (Armaggeddon ffwd to 1:40).
Unfortunately, on Sept 11, 2001 there was no way to tell if the attacks were directly or just indirectly related to the on-going American war against Saddam (a war that was so poorly reported that most Americans even today fail to realize it even happened, but conversely was so burned into the minds of the Arab Street at the time that it still conjures up bitter memories in the region).
The question of direct Iraqi involvement in the 911 attacks was investigated first by the Bush Administration, and they found no evidence to make a conclusion. Subsequent investigations by the CIA, FBI, the House and Senate intelligence committees, the entire intelligence community, the 911 Commission and more all ran into the same problem: there was no evidence. For political partisans opposed to President Bush and/or the invasion of Iraq that was enough to support their argument that the invasion was somehow not necessary. The conclusion they promoted-that there was “no evidence” of a direct involvement was but 1/3 of the truth. Another 1/3 was the reason that there was “no evidence’ was because almost none had been collected or analyzed, and the reason for that (almost always ignored by political opponents of the Iraq invasion) was that from December 1998-December 2002 the United States had not a single spy inside Iraq. For four years there was no evidence collected, and thus there was “no evidence.”
Most alarmingly, after 1998 and the exit of the U.N. inspectors, the CIA had no human intelligence sources inside Iraq who were collecting against the WMD target.
– Senator Pat Roberts 070904 SIC Release of WMD investigation report
Press Conference transcript
The last 1/3 is the most obvious, and the most deliberately ignored for political purposes: every single investigation that looked at the question of direct regime ties to the 911 attacks and/or the Al Queda network of terrorist groups ALWAYS pointed out that because so little evidence had been collected, the issue was to remain open-not closed or concluded.
After the invasion, innumerable direct ties between the Al Queda network of terrorist groups and Saddam’s regime have been uncovered. These ties are shown in captured and authenticated documents, in the interrogation of former regime leaders, and in the capture of Al Queda operatives. In fact, the relationship between the regime and the network was far far more involved than any relationship between Germany and Japan or Mussolini and Tojo.
Yet it remains a political issue more than a historical one today. six years after the second invasion of Iraq, eight years after the 911 attacks, 17 years after Osama and the Al Queda network declared war on the United States, and 18 years after the United States and Saddam’s regime went to war over Kuwait.
Perhaps, now that President Bush is gone, and there is no more need to use the invasion of Iraq as a draw issue for his opposition…perhaps now people can be mentally brave enough to recognize the undeniable blowback/more-indirect relationship between the Ignored War on Saddam’s regime (1991-2001) and the 911 attacks. There certainly is no more reason to deny this fact, and there’s no more reason to avoid a conclusive investigation into the depth of regime ties to the Al Queda network of terrorist groups.